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Jim Leyland caps his legendary career with a WBC title for the U.S.

Jim Leyland caps his legendary career with a WBC title for the U.S.
U.S. Manager Jim Leyland keeps an eye on the action during an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico in the World Baseball Classic championship game at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. (Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Jim Leyland nearly broke into tears. USA Baseball had lured Leyland out of retirement to manage in the World Baseball Classic, and Team USA had just won the gold medal.

Leyland talked about the honor of managing for his country, of the coaches and players having the honor of representing their country. And then his voice dropped a bit, and he spoke haltingly.

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"This is really about the men and women that serve our country," he said. "That's who this is for."

After the interviews and after the celebration, Leyland would remove a uniform for what he said was the final time.

"I'm not wearing any baseball uniform any more," he said.

Marcus Stroman, the winning pitcher for the U.S. in the WBC championship game on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium, could understand why Leyland is so respected within baseball.

Stroman carried a no-hitter through six innings, but he gave up a leadoff double in the seventh inning. Leyland removed him then and, after the game, said it was "probably a mistake" to send Stroman out for the seventh inning.

Granted, Stroman might not have the arm strength and endurance in March that he should have in July, but Stroman insisted he would not have fought Leyland had he tried to remove the pitcher with a no-hitter intact in a world championship game.

"He's the man," Stroman said. "I never played for such a down-to-earth, humble, confident manager. He is able to rile us up in the perfect ways.

"I feel like every word he says is calculated and perfect, and he knows how to get us going. It was an experience. I loved playing for him."

Leyland led the Marlins to victory in the World Series in 1997 and now the U.S. to victory in the WBC in 2017. He is one of three men to be honored as manager of the year in each major league. The other two — Bobby Cox and Tony La Russa — are in the Hall of Fame.

Cooperstown might soon call for Leyland. However, if another club calls Leyland with a managerial offer, he said he would have no interest.

"I"ll be 73 years old," Leyland said. "That's enough."

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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